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Is Rahul Dravid the most underrated Indian captain of all time?

  • An analysis of why Rahul Dravid is one of the most underrated captains in Indian cricket.
  • The Karnataka player placed emphasis on building a team for the future but also had a good overseas record.
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Feature
Modified 11 Jun 2020, 14:56 IST
Rahul Dravid
Rahul Dravid

As Munaf Patel heaved the ball to the leg side, Chaminda Vaas completed a simple catch and with it ended a billion Indian dreams. Up in the dugout, the Indian captain Rahul Dravid looked ahead blankly.

He had led the team from the front during the Indian chase but received no support. A group-stage exit meant that Rahul Dravid's time as captain was all but over. Since then, Rahul Dravid's captaincy has always been associated with that World Cup exit, and although the World Cup debacle was significant, it did not depict the complete story of his captaincy.

Rahul Dravid's ODI record as captain:

Rahul Dravid
Rahul Dravid

Let's start with One day cricket. Rahul Dravid captained India in 79 ODI's, winning 42 and losing 33, giving him a win percentage of 53.2%. This s higher than that of Saurav Ganguly's, although the left-hander led India in nearly double the one-day games as Rahul Dravid did.

However, it wasn't just wins that Rahul Dravid brought along with him. There was also a change in mindset in the team. Under previous captains, India were not good at chasing totals, but it changed under Rahul Dravid. Under Dravid's captaincy, India's record in chasing totals was 23-14, which was an improvement on the 23-32 the team had under Ganguly.

This proficiency in chasing also allowed players to develop as cool-headed finishers. Players such as MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh used these experiences to build their chasing expertise. This change in mindset has helped Indian cricket significantly in the long run.

Yuvraj Singh averaged the highest with the bat in one day cricket under Rahul Dravid. The left-hander's average of 44 under Dravid was eight points above his career average of 36. Dhoni's early years in international cricket were moulded under Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell.

India went on to create a world record of 14 successive ODI wins while chasing. This emphasis on developing finishers not only showed the forward-thinking approach of Dravid, but also eradicated Indian cricket's fear of chasing.

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One often looks at the 2011 World Cup-winning side and credits the success of the side to Saurav Ganguly. But on taking a closer look, one would see that the foundation of the side was honed under Rahul Dravid. The likes of Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina and Munaf Patel were given consistent runs in the Indian team under Rahul Dravid.

The general promotion of youth under Rahul Dravid is often overlooked. While there is no doubt that Saurav Ganguly deserves credit for the building of the core of the 2011 World Cup-winning side, there is also no doubt that Dravid deserves a fair share of the same.

Rahul Dravid's Test record as captain:

Rahul Dravid
Rahul Dravid

What about Test cricket? On paper, Rahul Dravid has a lower win percentage than his predecessor. However, looking at the results in-depth, we find exciting revelations. Firstly, India at home under Ganguly were powerful and had an outstanding record. While Dravid's record was not as strong, he did not lose a single series at home.

Concurrently, Rahul Dravid also won only one Test series at home, which was against Sri Lanka. It was away from home where Rahul Dravid's captaincy stood out. Of all Indian captains before Virat Kohli, it can be argued that India were strongest away from home under Rahul Dravid.

Dravid's last four series as captain were all away from home, against West Indies, South Africa, Bangladesh and England. Across 12 Test matches in four overseas series, India only lost twice. This was astounding and showed that Dravid was on his way to building a special overseas Test team before the 2007 World Cup derailed his quest.

The win in the West Indies was India's first series win in the Caribbean since 1971. While it may not seem normative now, in 2007, it was a huge deal. Rahul Dravid led from the front, making 81 and 68 in the series finale. When India arrived in South Africa after that West Indies tour, India had not won a Test match in South Africa. This changed as India won the first Test in Johannesburg by 123 runs, thereby making history under Rahul Dravid. Even though India went on to lose that series 2-1, it was a landmark moment in Indian cricket.

Undoubtedly, the biggest moment under Rahul Dravid's captaincy came against England in 2007. Arriving on English shores after the shocker the team endured at the World Cup, it took great character to rebound in such fashion. The enormity of a series win in England is not quite appreciated until one looks at the team's results in England since that series.

Since 2007, India have played 14 Test matches in England, winning all of two games while losing 11. A match-saving innings from MS Dhoni prevented India from going 1-0 down in that 2007 series. India then made their mark in the series in stunning fashion. On the back of fabulous performances from Zaheer Khan and the entire batting lineup, the visitors won by seven wickets.

India had England on the ropes in the final Test as well, but some stoic batting from Kevin Pieterson and a second-innings collapse from India meant that it was only going to be only a 1-0 series win. Rahul Dravid thus became the second captain after Ajit Wadekar to win a Test series in England.

The Karnataka player lifted the Mansour Pataudi trophy in what was to be his last Test series as captain of India. Looking at these results, one wonders what Rahul Dravid's team could have achieved in Australia.

Rahul Dravid's impact on Indian cricket as captain is often understated. His captaincy played a crucial role in the development of the youth of Indian cricket. He changed the mindset of the Indian team in limited-overs and broke the glass ceiling of winning Test matches overseas.

Many cricketers boast of their contributions once they retire, but Rahul Dravid is still the same humble man who always put his team first. And while he may not speak out about his captaincy record, we must not forget his impact.

Published 20 May 2020, 02:04 IST
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